I am happy to report that I am safely back from Iraq (I went to see the elephant, and thank goodness he didn't see me)! Though I went to many places in Iraq--most of them not on the travel brochures-- I was spared from all dangers, and escaped wounding, combat, and major distress.
I left Iraq and arrived at Ali AL Salem airbase in Kuwait on 17 January 2007, stepping down onto the tarmac, a free bird off the Freedom Bird! (see the photo of my boots on the asphalt...)
After a gruelling experience involving the paperwork required to fly my weapon back with me out of Kuwait, I boarded a commercial aircraft on 20 January at the Kuwait Airport and flew across the sea. The flight lasted over fourteen hours, but the movies and the meal were good, so it was overall quite bearable.
I reported to Camp Pendleton the same day, 20 January (due to the dynamics of jet travel and changing timezones, 20 January lasted more than 30 hours for me!). At Camp Pendleton, I spent a few days checking out of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, the unit I was attached to on my deployment.
Then, after a gruelling experience involving the screening required to fly my weapon back with me out of the San Diego Airport, I flew back to Quantico on 24 January 2007. The flight had a short layover in Ft. Worth which broke up the long distance, so I didn't mind it, though I was longing to see my family.
After a third and final grueling experience involving my weapon (I won't go into details...), I began settling back in at home. Soon I will be back to work in the studio.
Utilizing all the sketches, photographs and video I collected during my deployment, I will create larger, museum-quality paintings and sculptures for the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps Combat Art Collection.
I can't wait to get started...